Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Mindy Project 5x01 Review: "Decision 2016" (Enron) [Contributor: Anne]

"Decision 2016"
Original Airdate: October 4, 2016

Hi, everyone!

It’s good to be back, though it does not feel like I am “back” at all. I’ve spent the summer catching up on TV that people loved years ago (hey, Orange is the New Black!) and have spent the fall, so far, watching pilots of shows that I hope will survive (Pitch, you got me feeling some kind of way!). I am barreling toward graduation (unfortunately) and just finished my final fall break, where I went to Boston and — among other things — read a book about Enron.

Are you all familiar with Enron? It was a massive energy company that was once considered the “Goldman Sachs” of energy. Wall Street investors loved Enron, but what they couldn’t figure out is how Enron made its money, referring to its financial statements as a “black box.” Once these questions were seriously asked, Enron’s insides were revealed to be heavily fraudulent, and the company went into bankruptcy, killing jobs and billions of dollars in retirement savings for shareholders.

Why do I bring up Enron? Well, for one, I love the story of the company and I dread having to write about The Mindy Project’s bad season five premiere. But for another, I find myself thinking of Enron when I watch “Decision 2016.” I think about what the show convinced me it was selling, way, way back. I think about the good faith I had in the show as little mistakes began to appear. And I think about how, when I started asking questions, the show only accelerated in perpetuating these problems — allowing cracks to become chasms — trying to deflect through lies (“Season four’s final four episodes are very Danny heavy”), arrogance (“Some people will be mad; they always are”), and delusion (“I still think [Danny]’s a very lovable character”). I held stock in The Mindy Project, and it has me bankrupt and then some. What a disappointment.

Let’s walk through “Decision 2016” and its biggest problems:


“I have spent so much of my life thinking that I was the protagonist in my own movie, that I never stopped to think that maybe I’m the villain in somebody else’s,” Mindy Lahiri says to Jody. And who among us hasn’t felt that way — that our stories were more important than anyone else’s, just to discover that every person’s life is as nuanced as we perceive our own?

It’s a fair point that was addressed much more successfully in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; there was even a song about it. But no matter what Mindy says, the fact that she is literally the protagonist of a romantic comedy show titled The MINDY Project makes this not only false, but egregiously false. The Mindy Project is the most self-centered show I can think of. Other than Mindy, there is no other character that has been in every episode; other than Mindy, there is no other character who is granted honest nuance; other than Mindy, there is no other character who is trusted with an A-plot.

Once upon a time, The Mindy Project was able to balance that with Danny, who — in earlier seasons — had a deeper backstory and (through Chris Messina’s great acting) more nuance. But now Danny’s character has been assassinated, and in the process, Mindy Lahiri has been given toddler treatment.

Oh, she eats multiple bear claws? Oh, her hair was licked by a police dog (yes, Mindy, you’re so not glamorous in your $700 dress)? She’s banned from XYZ places? Yes, Mindy Lahiri is an arrogant narcissist who mistreats Morgan. Yes, Mindy Lahiri thinks that you can make coffee by putting a Keurig into a coffee cup. And while these are “flaws,” they’re not actual detriments to Mindy’s personality.

Mindy is never shown as being harmfully negligent; Mindy is never shown as receiving fair consequences for her selfishness. Mindy is never even really shown as having to “balance” working two jobs, along with her child. She may say that she’s exhausted, but you don’t see that. You only see her succeeding.

Mindy has no enemies, and if she does, they end up falling in love with her: Danny, Brendan Deslaurier, Jody, Peter in a platonic sense, Niecy Nash in a professional sense. Last season the man who accused her of sexual harassment propositioned her by episode’s end. Mindy only has an audience. See whenever she is in the office or break room? The conversation revolves around her. Even in my favorite part of the episode — when Beverly and Mindy talk — Beverly acts as sounding board for Mindy’s foibles.

The problem with “Decision 2016” is that, in the process of vilifying both men in the love triangle, the show elevates Mindy to savior status. On Danny’s end, because Mindy has no reason to improve, his request for her to change is unwarranted — making Mindy the winner of that argument, of course. On Jody’s end, because we’ve never seen Mindy lead Jody on, he comes across as misogynistic and horrible, compounded by his asinine comments about her breasts and his heckling her at episode’s end.

I’ve seen a lot of people who comment that The Mindy Project is a pro-feminist show. I suppose on paper, having a protagonist with sexual agency and professional independence is a feminist message to send. Given Mindy’s perfection, though, I would argue it’s less pro-feminist and more pro-Mindy Lahiri.


I believed this was true in “Homewrecker,” but it comes into full effect just how far the writers of The Mindy Project are willing to go to bastardize Jody and Danny.

Arguably, Jody has been a pretty terrible character from the beginning, so he’s only had to sink lower since we first met him. He was introduced to us as a misogynist, a racist, a cheater, a sex addict — so, on par with most Mindy Project guys. Over the course of the fourth season we were supposed to believe that he had changed, that knowing Mindy had redeemed him to become more honest and upstanding. (At the very least, we were supposed to think he was a more supportive partner to Mindy than Danny was.) But he also lied about having chlamydia in the fourth season, and in a move that was sold to us as romantic, took away (and without asking!) her spiral staircase to give her the above apartment. If The Mindy Project writers had a longer-term memory, they would have realized that any one of those qualities was enough to make “Decision 2016” obviously, obviously not in Jody’s favor.

But as “Decision 2016” begins, Jody is still a viable option for Mindy. He’s a “good friend.” A “great business partner.” In the same way that Mindy is all-good, Jody is all-bad, saved only through brushes with her saintliness.

Is that why, once she rejects him, he becomes the most radicalized version of horrible? “I was nice to you so you should have sex with me” is starkly in contrast to his declaration of love, and “git with your small breasts” is disgusting. Why would I ever want to watch Jody in any capacity again?

In conjunction with Mindy’s perfection, having a character like Jody is dangerous for the show going forward. He’s the number three behind Mindy and Morgan, but in this quick assassination of any redemptive qualities, I have no interest in his well-being or ultimate happiness and absolutely do not want to see him with Mindy. Given that Mindy Lahiri is the show’s sun, I don’t see how Jody by himself could handle a B-plot, so I don’t know where he fits on this show’s map going forward.

I will say: Mindy was right that she and Jody have negative chemistry, and she was right that he is rugged and handsome. Thank goodness those things were mentioned; it’s my only evidence that the writers aren’t straight delusional.


There’s tabloid gossip that states there is complicated bad blood between Chris Messina and Mindy Kaling. Based on where Danny Castellano has gone, I sure hope that’s the case, or Mindy Kaling sure knows how to treat a friend.

Do I have to speak on how disappointed I am on where Danny Castellano has gone? Do I have to remind you, audience, that Danny Castellano was introduced to us as a bitter divorcee who was cheated on and is now a slime ball who cheats and then blames it on the woman, and then cheats again?

I am ashamed to have ever been passionately positive about this show or the relationship between Danny and Mindy. Good job, The Mindy Project.

One of my least favorite things to hear on this platform is that I don’t understand mature relationships because I am still in college. First that it’s annoying — I am in my twenties, calm yourselves — and second that this criticism implies that The Mindy Project has ever been interested in portraying a mature relationship in a consistent way. Danny was never perfect, but he wasn’t evil. This Danny is evil. This Danny, apparently, has a relationship with Mindy that was largely dominated by sex. (What a perversion of the will-they-won’t-they chemistry of the first two seasons...)

I could say more, but allow me to give some quotes highlighting the before and after:

“You’re a woman and that’s good; look like a woman.” “You know you’re right for someone when they force you to be the best version of yourself.” “I don’t know if you know this, but you’re my best friend.” “I need to have you in my life.” “Danny never looked at me like that.”


“Look, it’s not my fault, you were acting all sweet... I couldn’t help it.” “I don’t want to change. I don’t need to change.” “Our thing was never really deep conversation.” “You ruined my life.”

At Mindy and Danny’s (presumably) final conversation, Mindy warns Danny to not get married to Sarah, that it’s a bad idea. Danny agrees but says that it’s not her problem anymore. I suppose that message is for us, the viewers: Danny’s gone, we have no reason to worry about him anymore.

What a waste. A waste of time — remember Ma? And a huge waste of faith.

It wasn’t that Mindy and Danny just couldn’t work it out in the end. It was that Mindy and Danny couldn’t work it out without absolutely ruining everything that had happened before, including Danny.


These flaws notwithstanding, the writing of this episode was sloppy and unambitious. The jokes feel pretty uninspired at this point (ex. “Mindy-eats-a-lot” jokes, “Mindy-is-ethnic” jokes, etc.). I’m tired writing this, but I’m not getting paid to involve myself with this show. The Mindy Project writers are, so I don’t know what their excuse is.

The problem with writing reviews for The Mindy Project is that I often repeat myself, which is bound to happen when you’ve written probably 100,000 words about the show at this point. (I’m coming up on 2,000 here!) I will try to keep this last bit short.

We’re in the third season of this show sucking, meaning that I have disliked it longer than I have liked it now. These reviews will probably skew negative, and if you’re a fan of the show, I’m sorry. I think I’ve written more than enough on why this show has a long way to go to convince me of being worthy of praise, so I think you understand.

However — as someone who has written about it for four years, and as someone who according to iTunes watched one episode of The Mindy Project 190 times,* I know what I’m talking about. I promise I will think of things to make these reviews more interesting for you — maybe counting things as they occur? I don’t know and if you do, please tell me. I am doing this for you, not me, and I am always looking to improve.

I don’t know what the answer to that question will be yet, but as this premiere review comes to an end, I’d like to point out things that I think The Mindy Project could do to improve:

  • Focus on Tamra and Jeremy more, for one, as they are the only two remaining characters left who could still believably become nuanced and likable. 
  • Give Mindy internal challenges rather than outside ones and actually confront her flaws rather than making her hero to someone else’s dragon. 
  • Give Mindy and Morgan’s relationship a backbone because it is the strongest relationship currently left standing.
  • Stop relying on tired, misogynist jokes and tired, misogynist characters
  • Also, I’d like less time for Colette, but that’s personal preference taking.
And finally: don’t use mark-to-market accounting! It is almost entirely subjective and can be used in short-term to inflate earnings, fooling investors as to the true health of your company. Oh, there I go, talking about Enron again. I guess I wanted to end on a high note.

Stray Observations:
  • * To be fair about the 190, most were the final two minutes, which is when iTunes counts an episode. Of course, I would frequently watch it more than just that one time for the view that iTunes counted, so figured those values came up even.
  • I know I’m pretty deep in this review, but the biggest insult to me was The Mindy Project honestly stealing “dough eyes” from me when I have been saying it for three years now. Say it to my face next time, guys.
  • Also, is Mindy not a feminist anymore re: the Ghostbusters comment? Didn’t Tamra give her a “Feminist” onesie for Leo? 
  • I could stand to see more of Beverly. I do love Beth Grant, and thought she did a really good job in giving Beverly’s words some weight. 
  • I will be happy, so happy, if Jeremy and Mindy get together at the end. Can y'all imagine.
  • The music was pretty good, I have to say. You could do a lot worse than “Back to Black.” 
  • To feel better after watching this, I watched the season 1 episode “The One That Got Away” with Seth Rogan. What a great episode, and a formerly great show.·
  • The Enron book is called “The Smartest Guys in the Room,” also a documentary on Netflix. Thought I would mention.


  1. I just don't get this idea everyone has that Danny and Jody are horrible. They aren't perfect they are nuanced and human.

    Jody, and this pains me because I hate him, but he acted that way at the end because he was hurt and he lashed out. It was immature, it was stupid, it was mean but it so obviously came from a place of hurt. I am not saying that a person should be ok with that in real life, they shouldn't but in a comedy they have to have him do something outlandish for the laugh and throwing candy worked for the visual. But he clearly was prepared to be left for Danny but to just not be good enough hurt him.

    Danny- I just don't get this hate people have or this idea (that I find so misogynistic) that Mindy Kaling is some pathetic vindictive person. There is nothing to say that any one of these rumors that are on the internet (started by IMO sad fans) are true. Danny didn't change, they just stopped giving him passes. I mean my god he didn't consider her family until she was pregnant, he wanted to hide their relationship, that apparently did something to try to "steal Christina's light" etc. But last night I saw a man who was in love with Mindy, who wanted to be with her but knew that he wanted something different that he couldn't see how he could make it work. But at the same time the idea of her, in any way was to much to not try. Lets not forget he treated that chick from You've Got Sext the EXACT SAME WAY he is treating Sarah, its not new. And he isn't evil. I saw a lot of love, sadness and honestly pride in Mindy for growing so much.

    I am very sorry you aren't enjoying this show, but I have to say that the premise was never Mindy getting with Danny the story of the show was Mindy growing and evolving into a better person. Now along the way Mindy fell in love and moved towards Danny and it was clear that MK wanted it to be the last relationship, but Chris Messina broke his contract midseason which was clear based on the quick turn the show had to take and in that turn Mindy Kaling and co has been able to address a lot of real issues.

    working vs SAHM
    making relationships work after an unplanned child
    single mom and dating (I agree I think they missed the boat on the balance a bit too)

    1. Hi and thank you for your comment!!!! I'm so excited to hear from people especially people who aren't in the same boat as I am re: Mindy, and I'd love to keep talking to you about it if you don't mind.

      I would be more receptive to the show's ambition (the real issues that you mention and are honestly pretty groundbreaking) if it hadn't front-loaded so heavily another theme earlier on in its runtime. In a lot of the season 5 interviews I've been reading, what I've found is that the way to explain this change between Danny & Mindy is that Danny changed so much with Mindy that he wanted kids even more than she did--that where he was so jaded before, now he's suddenly more open than even Mindy is, and that's a sign of the fact that they outgrew each other/went in opposite directions. That's fine. I also think that there's a lot of evidence to suggest that Danny's imperfect and you point out rightly that he was a dick in season 2 about being quiet about their relationship.

      But what irks me about this show is that Danny is not just wrong, he's SO wrong, and Mindy's not just right, she is SO right. I could agree about his flaws being pretty, pretty bad, but in the third (and definitely the fourth) seasons, he doesn't have any redeemable qualities. And it's not even that his side of the story doesn't have some meat to it, it's that they don't give him moments of sympathy at all. He's all of a sudden this oozing, dangerous, mean sexpot, and their relationship was not defined by that in seasons past. There's just so little of the earlier Danny in s3 and s4 Danny.

      I think there's something unfair to the fact that Chris Messina obviously breached contract and that left TMP scrambling in a lot of ways, but to me that signals that it wasn't the story all along. I also think that s3's dependence on Danny elements--Ma, "Dinner at the Castellanos," "Road Trip"--is now pretty in-the-books as a waste of time. They gave us reason to believe he was a second lead to Mindy Lahiri, and a constant one at that. That he's not is a rug to pull out from under us, not because we want them to be together but because we've given so much time into developing the Danny character (the second most developed character behind Mindy) for what purpose?

      Re: Jody, the breast comments came right before that, though--when he's like "wow you wore a normal bra" and when he's like "It's OK we can work with that," really unattractive to me. And when Mindy says "wow I was not expecting that response," I wasn't either! Saying "no" to not wanting to be friends is a totally plausible response, but it felt like way too far in an attempt to justify Mindy's single position and to separate her from Jody entirely.

      I'm sorry I'm not enjoying the show either hahahaha! I feel so bad because I know there are still people out there (and honestly other reviews have been really positive) that love it, and I just want to be on that level because it meant so much to me and I don't want to let you guys down or cause trouble unnecessarily.

      I'm curious if you agree with my assessment of Mindy, as you say that the purpose of the show is for Mindy to keep growing, and where you think it should go from here. Do you think the ensemble should be developed or is that not necessarily to the show's benefit? Also, do you have any suggestions on how I can make these reviews better, considering they will probably skew negative?

      P.S. Re: Mindy being vindictive, I honestly think at a baseline Chris Messina is most in the wrong for breaching contract and for pretty consistently being difficult during press tours and stuff, but at the same time, I can't help but wonder given the massive churn of ensemble what the deal is with that set. There's something uncomfortably volatile about it to me. But it's hard to comment on that stuff with any serious weight.

    2. Ok I see our divergence now, I don't see Mindy as so right. In fact I feel she was incredibly WRONG in season three and I wanted to bash my head in many times with the way she'd just go along with Danny and bend to his wants especially with Ma. I thought this was annoying but in character- she did it with Josh, Casey and Cliff. I think a lot of fans blamed Danny but this wasn't on Danny (although I hate his ma & their relationship) it was on Mindy. So I don't blame Danny as much for not catching a lot of these issues they were having because Mindy kept saying everything was great and he was wonderful. Also Danny has almost zero emotional intelligence. So she sent mixed signals and didn't value herself most of the time, until she broke. When she did communicate honestly you saw Danny respond positively. So no I don't agree that Mindy is SO RIGHT, although I agree with her position in S4 on working and child raising and don't agree with Danny's POV.

      That being said, I get Danny's POV on a couple of levels. Danny has never been loved and wanted just loved and wanted. Every other relationship in his life has been someone needing him, including Ma. Mindy doesn't need Danny she just wants him and I think Danny loves Mindy more then he has ever loved anyone & the fact that she doesn't need him scares Danny. He literally doesn't know how to handle that relationship, but if he can make it so she needs him (i.e. no job) she can't leave and then he feels safe. Point 2 Danny didn't have a father or positive male role model hence the over hyper masculinity in his life/apartment. So he has decided what is a "man" and in that based on the culture and time he grew up in a "man" worked & the wife stayed home and raised the kid so anything else is a threat and makes him feel like he isn't living up to his ideal.

      I think Mindy gave him everything he always wanted and he never thought he'd have and he did what he knew he'd do and screwed it up. Lets be honest Mindy & Danny aren't good at communicating.

      I hate the Southern siblings and wish they weren't on the show although Garrett is a great actor, but I just don't think the scene was meant to trash him it was meant to be true to character (shaming for breast feeding) and show his hurt.

      As for the casting- I have zero respect for what Chris Messina did it was clear based on her twitter/instagram and interviews early last season she wasn't going to break them up. Challenge them yeah I think so but not break them up. But he bailed, I think it has little to do with their relationship & more to do with delusion that he could win an Oscar. As for the rest of the casting issues, I think there was a lot of network involvement in season one- remember they went from being work with girlfriends to a more of a new girl model Mindy with guys (a demo she's struggled with), it was a rating grab. There could be issues BTS, but I think a lot of this stuff is a new show creator being over ambition in her concept and needing to trim season 1.

    3. quick note I don't think Danny is right in his thinking or actions but I don't view him as irredeemable as a lot of people seem to think the show made him out to be. I get where he is coming from, it annoyed me. But honestly S3 and his behavior with Ma bothered me more. I also think had CM not bailed the show was set up to deal with their communication issues and it would have been a great and challenging story but CM bailed.

      Again I disagree with Danny, I just don't see him has this monster, I saw the nuance.

    4. I have to do work but I just wanted to say thank you so much for your commentary! I actually wonder if I would be benefited by rewatching season 3 as opposed to just recalling my memories of season 3. That might be where I'll start. I'll definitely respond more at length tomorrow but I just wanted to say thank you!!!

    5. Sorry for all the replies but I noticed I didn't answer all your questions.

      1. I think Mindy is growing, I loved that she decided not to act out of desperation. I wish they kept Dandy together but we know why that didn't happen. I think they have shown her grow. She saw that getting married to get married was a bad idea.

      2. What I loved the most about S4, especially less Danny is the development of the other characters. My FAVORITE SCENE of the premiere wasn't any Mindy scene it was Jeremy & Tamara in that software scene it was perfect. I could watch those two all the time, and from spoilers it sounds like we get more so I am thrilled. (this feeling does not apply to Collette)

      3. I think with the reviews you have to be honest with yourself, if you don't like it then say it. However, I think it would be helpful for you and your enjoyment of the show, if you take a breath on the Dandy stuff. It will work out the way it is suppose to. Also I don't think the writers are going for a right vs. wrong- I think they are trying to show complicated stuff and talk about stuff they deal with or have dealt with in life so I wouldn't look at it in the box of right and wrong. Because I don't think that is what they are going for. Remember there is humor in the absurdity of how out of touch what some of these characters are saying. Never let a man say it to you in life but like Michael Scott talking to Daryl in real life horrible, inexcusable in the show his horribleness was funny. I think that is what they are going for. Where IMO the show ran into issues with Danny is they needed to break them up for obvious reasons so it went more dramatic then normal, and the fans loved Danny & got really good at ignoring his flaws and wanted him to be something else.

      I think your reviews are great, I really do, but if you are really worried about being to negative a tip I have when I run into issues at work (not a writer but emails/corporate) is take a beat think about it, in this case watch it again then write about it. Maybe you'll like it or find a joke you missed or maybe not.

      promise last post